Written by Kep
Nightmarer – Deformity Adrift
> Dissonant death metal
> Releasing May 5
> Total Dissonance Worship
In the scope of the modern death metal scene, dissonant and avant-garde bands have carved out a real niche of their own. It’s a subgenre that’s really grown over the last decade, with acts like Gorguts and Ulcerate in the vanguard and a host of impressive bands like Sunless and Mithridatum taking up the twisted banner to varying degrees of notoriety. One such band is international four-piece Nightmarer, a group that deserved to be included in the upper echelon of the style before now and has undeniably strengthened that case with this new record.
You could be forgiven for having missed their debut EP Chasm back in 2016, and their first full-length Cacophony of Terror in 2018. I only discovered them myself in 2020, diving headlong into new metal in the first few months of the pandemic and discovering a new single. That turned out to be the middle track from Monolith of Corrosion, a stunner of a little three-track EP that was released in 2021. But the time for not giving Nightmarer their due as one of the most bonecrushing, mind-flaying acts in metal is over, because this album is their best release yet. If stomping, blasting, skin-peeling dissodeath with a wealth of brains and groove is your thing, look no further: Deformity Adrift will absolutely steamroll your ass.
The record is a crisp nine tracks across 32 minutes, with two interludes of uneasy calm that serve as much-needed breaks from the oppressive ugliness of the rest. It’s smartly ordered for maximum impact and replayability, too. The band showcases their trademark balance of merciless brutality and contorted groove across two opening tracks before moving deeper into the sonic abyss with the monstrous “Throe of Illicit Withdrawal”. About halfway through that song is the first overt appearance of doom influence, a feature that becomes more prevalent as the record continues, as the music slows to a crushingly heavy chug. Then it’s two minutes of a lone distorted guitar staggering hopelessly in the darkness in first interlude “Tooms” and on to three more songs, the album’s most out-of-the-box number situated in the middle of them (a word on that later) and near the middle of the runtime as a whole. Finally, after the brief dark ambient respite of “Endstadium”, Deformity Adrift closes with its grimmest, slowest track: the hideous “Obliterated Shrine”.
There are stretches of hellish blasting fury and plenty of riffs that lurch and spasm like the death throes of a disemboweled giant, but Nightmarer particularly excels at finding enormous, earthshaking pseudo-grooves in all that angularity. Take the back half of opener “Brutalist Imperator”: there’s a huge crunching groove, preposterously heavy, that marks the track’s most memorable moments. Highlighted by John Collett’s chesty growls and some nifty work in the hi-hat by drummer Paul Seidel (also of The Ocean), it gets in your bones and compels you to bang your head, but true to their clever and subtly subversive writing, the idea never really allows itself to settle allllll the way in. The extended passage is right there for the taking, tantalizingly close, but the band is going to keep you on your toes instead.
They have a fascinating approach to textures, where some passages are riff-driven while others are carried rather overtly by the rhythm of the drums and vocals. My favorite track “Suffering Beyond Death” is a great example: after an enormously brutal intro section, the blasts take the lead, propelling the song cruelly forward as Collett roars like a grizzly just above, while the guitars take a more subdued role, measuredly using dissonant lines to weave a backdrop of smoke and monsters. It’s a very different feel from the following passage, where the guitars draw the ear as they control the flow with crying calls and then dives in towering, shuddering violence.
Featuring truly spot-on production—and the band members handled their own recording—with mixing and mastering by Raphaël Bovey, Nightmarer makes some fantastically powerful sounds, mixing stylistic influences into some clever rhythmic asymmetry and both big, hulking chunk and hypnotic swirling in Simon Hawemann and Keith Merrow’s guitars. It’s easy to remember moments like the ending of “Hammer of Desolation”, which bounces weightily on something akin to a big-bodied Meshuggah riff. Final track “Obliterated Shrine” leans heavily into horrifying, oppressive doom with devastating results. There are even some mild industrial influences, most notably in the pulsating “Taufbefehl”; unfortunately it’s the least successful track of the record in my estimation, and the bits of industrial generally feel like novelties more than a logical part of the core sound. They also use moments of rest to great effect: the extended sullen calm in the back half of “Suffering Beyond Death”, for example, works as a break for the ears and an aching reflection on the punishment dealt before it.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is the record that should do it, if you ask me: Deformity Adrift is extremely impressive stuff, and should launch Nightmarer into the wider eye of the death metal scene. It’s a beast of a record, enormous in sound and whip-smart in design, and it delivers brutality in the most addictive of ways. Catch me still giving this album repeat listens all the way in December.